I review the first season of Sherlock, the BBC modern day adaption of Conan-Doyle’s classic starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, and the creation of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.
“A fantastic modern day adaption of the Great Detective making Sherlock one of the best things on TV.”
I recently underwent a rewatch of the three episodes of the first season of BBC’s awesome Sherlock series on DVD and it reminds me of why I got into this show in the first place. Over the course of the three episodes we see Moffat work his magic like he has done on Doctor Who as head writer, with Mark Gatiss, another writer for Doctor Who, even if he may be less acclaimed than Moffat, also contributing an awesome episode to the series and its finale, The Great Game, with Moffat writing A Study in Pink and Stephen Thompson’s episode The Blind Banker coming in-between the two.
The first episode, A Study in Pink, is adapted from the original first outing for Sherlock Holmes which was A Study in Scarlet. Moffat has got the balance between humour and seriousness completely right here, portraying an episode that can win even the most hardcore of Holmesian enthusiasts, those that scorn at this sort of a Sherlock Holmes series set in the modern day, over, with compelling characters, some great scenes and a wonderful score.
A Study in Pink was a great way to kick of the show. Smart, funny and with a great mystery that you will not be able to unravel before the end, Moffat really manages to introduce the show to not only a new audience but also fans of the Great Detective. with some great charm reinforced with some wonderful chemistry between the two lead actors, Martin Freeman (he of Hobbit fame) and Benedict Cumberbatch, playing their roles of John Watson and Sherlock Holmes respectively. They lead the charge in one of the strongest narratives of the show to date, although I do not believe that any actor really let the show down with their acting skills here. Rupert Graves portrays a reluctant DI Lestrade, only barely accepting Sherlock’s help because he admits that the Police can’t solve the crimes without him, and characters such as Mrs. Hudson are also brought into the modern day setting very well. It’s also interesting to note that in the original Sherlock Holmes stories – Sherlock was addressed as Holmes and John as Watson. Moffat has brought the series forward into the modern day setting with ease – and it never feels odd when Sherlock addresses John by his first name or the other way round. The only characters who aren’t called by their first name here are Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson, and that’s because it simply fits the characters.
The deduction sequences employed throughout the entire show are wonderfully executed, and all the writers have managed to capture the skills of Sherlock here brilliantly. All have also gone at great lengths to show how different he is from normal humans with his genius-level intelligence by giving him a lot of oddities – “I play the violin at three in the morning, sometimes I don’t talk for days on end,” Sherlock says during the pilot during his and John’s first meeting.
All the plots in the episode are adapted from the classic Sherlock Holmes stories, and brought to life in the modern day city of London. A Study in Pink is, as mentioned – showcases the adaption of A Study in Scarlet, whilst The Blind Banker and The Great Game are more unique, and whilst this works for the latter, as The Great Game was a truly excellent episode featuring the first appearance of Sherlock’s archnemesis, Moriarty – the Napoleon of Crime, it doesn’t work as well as it did for The Blind Banker which is probably the weakest episode of the show, not just the season – to date.
The Blind Banker on the whole – whilst providing a strong story and giving John a potential love interest, didn’t have the sheer awesomeness factor as the previous episodes, for one – the love interest, played by Zoe Tellford, is used throughout the episode as a damsel-in-distress despite the fact that she could have easily been portrayed as a strong female lead and even a potential third addition to the crime-solving duo of Sherlock and John. This is one of the most action packed episodes of the series and whilst it is a strong watch and does not have a decreasing value upon its re-watch, much like the other two – it is ultimately the weakest of the series as Holmes is hired by an old friend to discover a security leak in his merchant bank.
Episode two however veered further away from the uniqueness of A Study in Pink into a more formulaic Detective drama, and whilst it would have been a fantastic episode of an original Detective drama, it was merely good. Sherlock episodes, like A Study in Pink before, need to be fantastic, as befitting of their original creation, which is why I was slightly disappointed by this one.
Well, having concluded my mini-review of The Blind Banker, we now come to The Great Game, the finale of Sherlock‘s first season that goes out with a bang.This episode features the appearance of Moriarty, played by Andrew Scott, who delivers his role brilliantly even if he only appears near the end. Some of argued that Scott’s portrayal of the Napoleon of Crime is not at all similar to Conan-Doyle’s vision of the character, but I found his performance to be very entertaining, and a delightful look at how Sherlock could potentially be if he was the bad guy.
The episode itself is probably one of my favourite works by Mark Gatiss. If only he could have pulled something as epic as this off on Doctor Who, which is a real shame as this man is the person behind the disappointing Victory of the Daleks episode from series five, which provided with a cool concept but ultimately was a let down. However, Gatiss delivers brilliantly here and in some places I found it hard to believe that it was in fact Gatiss’ writing.
The plot for The Great Game is well, a Great Game played between Moriarty and Sherlock. Moriarty is playing a game with Sherlock, and the whole episode eventually leads up to a fantastic finale with a cliffhanger ending that will leave you asking the question – Why is such an awesome show limited to only three episodes per season? It’s the same thing that’s haunted us in Season 2 as well, and about the only thing that Elementary actually does better than Sherlock, by delivering us a longer array of episodes per season. (A Review on the first two episodes of Elementary will be live hopefully before the end of the week).
The Great Game is quite dark, and Gatiss makes the tension increase to a level where you think that Sherlock and John, aided by Lestrade – might not actually be able to solve the clues in certain cases. The plot is very fast paced and it’s one you have to pay attention to throughout the entire episode – if you switch off for a couple of seconds then you’ll loose track. If this was a book, The Great Game would be a damn good pageturner though.
In short, The Great Game is a fantastic ending to a season that was far too short for anybody’s liking. However, whilst it may be short, Sherlock still manages to be possibly the best TV Crime Drama Series that I’ve seen (Out of a total of three that I’m currently following – Sherlock, Elementary and Castle), and one of my favourite shows. All I can say is that if you haven’t watched this program yet then I highly suggest you go out of your way to watch it as soon as you can, for Sherlock is worth that extra effort. It delivers on almost every level (The Blind Banker‘s flaws aside), and combined with a great cliffhanger, will keep viewers in for the next season, one that I have already seen (as this is a re-watch, remember), and it just gets better from here on in.
VERDICT FOR SEASON 1 of SHERLOCK: 4.5/5
VERDICT FOR SHERLOCK SEASON 1 INDIVIDUAL EPISODES: A Study in Pink – 5/5, The Blind Banker – 4/5, The Great Game – 5/5
EPISODES OF SEASON 1 of SHERLOCK: S1x01: A Study in Pink, S1x02: The Blind Banker, S1x03: The Great Game,